“The Conjuring” Review

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The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring’ is a new film by James Wan, the director known for ‘Saw’ (2004) and ‘Insidious(2010). The film, initially titled ‘The Warren Files’, is based on a real story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a couple who investigated paranormal activities back in 1970s and 80s. The investigators in the film are played by Patrick Wilson (‘Hard Candy’ (2005), ‘Insidious’) and Vera Farmiga (‘Up in the Air’ (2009), ‘The Departed(2006)). The story takes place in the 1970s and details the haunting of the Perron family’s home in Rhode Island. The family, a couple and their five daughters, moves into a farm house in Harrisville and soon experiences strange happenings in their house. When the family calls in investigators to help them, they realise that their greatest fears are only beginning to transpire into their day-to-day reality.

One thing which can be said for certain is that ‘The Conjuring’ is genuinely scary, and some scenes must give the viewer waves of goose bumps. The acting is great, the camerawork is good and the story is gripping. As with ‘Insidious’, the first part of the movie could not be better – it is scary, filled with mystery and truly immerses the viewer into the atmosphere of fear, apprehension and uncertainty. James Wan achieves success in creating the right atmosphere, and this maybe because he modelled the film’s cinematography after vintage 1970s horror films. The second part of ‘The Conjuring’ is better than that found in ‘Insidious’: James Wan seems to have taken into account criticisms made to ‘Insidious’, and when the investigators do arrive at the house in the movie’s second part, the scene is not comic at all.

Another amazing thing about this movie is that although ‘The Conjuring’ does not go outside the boundaries of a typical horror film, i.e. there is this “done-to-death” theme of a haunted house and a haunted doll, James Wan does manage to present the story in a fresh light, making it almost unforgettable. There will also be some nice surprises along the way, and the film’s stunning exorcism practice scenes can surely rival those found in the classic ‘The Exorcist’ (1973).

Arguably, the biggest trouble with ‘The Conjuring’ is that James Wan et al. do not want to let go of any typical horror movie’s salient features. To that effect, the crew decided to throw into the movie every imaginable horror detail: from a scary doll ala ‘Child’s Play’ (1988) to a troubled ghost “psychopathic” mother ala ‘Mama’ (2013) and other demonic creatures, as well as birds ala ‘Birds’ (1963). In that way, by the end of watching the movie, one can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of ghostly encounters happening all at the same time, arguably just like in recent ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2012). This is so despite the fact that, according to the true story behind the movie, there were indeed many incidents of forced death reported at the Perrons’ house, including two suicides, a rape, a death of a young girl, a poisoning incident and a death of four men frozen to death. The conclusion is that ‘The Conjuring’ tries to play it too safe, appearing a perfect horror flick, only at the expense of instilling great confusion and producing a very unsatisfying ending.

The confusion is created by other means as well. At the beginning of the movie, the audience starts to follow two completely different plot lines. First, we see the investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, together with their daughter and the incident surrounding the mysterious doll, Annabel. Then, obviously, we have the ghostly incidents on the farm with the Perrons being the main protagonists. It would have been nice (and provide much clarity and logic to the story!) if we were to see some clear link between the “doll horror” story shown at the beginning and “the haunted house” story that we follow right to the very end.  The plot with the broken doll, Annabel was never really elaborated further, and the audience are left clueless as to the identity of a spirit possessing the doll. Also, no matter how many sequels are there to follow ‘The Conjuring’ to clarify the matter, this present film and its ending remain somewhat disappointing.

There are also other evident inconsistencies. As with ‘Insidious’, the arrival of investigators at the farmhouse in ‘The Conjuring’ marks the prolonged disappearance of all strange happenings at the house, and it seems that from then on, only religious artifacts could anger the spirits and set off yet another chain of ghostly encounters. 

Overall, despite the film’s unsatisfying ending, confused story line and sporadic over-the-top scenes, ‘The Conjuring’ is still a very high quality horror movie, which will make one glued to the seat. It is so scary, it becomes a must-see film. 7/10

_____________________________________________________________

**SPOILER ALERT**

Regarding the ending, it is unbelievable to finally see the credits rolled in. The ending is inconclusive and a bit unsatisfying. Even if the “hateful” spirit was successfully exorcised and sent back to hell, what happened to all other spirits in the house? Surely they must still be there? Does it mean that they found peace too, as their “mother” was sent to hell, and they will not trouble anyone anymore? Or, these spirits were so friendly to begin with that their presence did not cause any discomfort? Well, neither of these two explanations seems plausible.

There are also a number of similarities between the Warren case and a more famous one – the Amityville Horror case, which concerns the haunting of George and Kathy Lutz’s house by a demonic presence after a gruesome mass murder of a family of six. For example, Lutz family said at that time that one of them always woke at 3:15 am to check the boats – the alleged time of the killing (the clocks in ‘The Conjuring’ always stopped at some precise time too), and Lutz’s five year old daughter created an imaginary friend, just as it happened in ‘The Conjuring’.

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19 Responses to “The Conjuring” Review

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. Not as scary as I would have hoped, but definitely very fun to be apart of and watch.

  2. I think this is in the running to be one of my favorite movies of the summer. You’re right–it is sort of lopsided in that its first half is stronger, especially the scenes prior to the Warrens entering the haunted home.

    My biggest problem with it is the exorcism scene/when all hell breaks loose. I guess it’s a matter of taste but I did not enjoy it being so the over-the-top. To me, the movie is–should be–more about the investigation, like when the Warrens set up the cameras around the house, the sorts of questions they ask the family, etc. I enjoy it a lot when details of the haunting is shown. A payoff that feels right is not showing floating chairs but a creepy feeling that, and you mentioned it in your review, that just because one demon/spirit is gone, doesn’t mean all of them are.

    I believe I read somewhere that the Amityville case is in store for the sequel.

  3. Steve says:

    This is one of the scariest films of recent years. Not gimmicky like the paranormal activity franchise, which started off strong but is really exhausted now. The Conjuring scared the hell out of me due to the suspense factor and how real it felt. I think they hit the nail on the head with the style of this one.

  4. bagladyrox says:

    My friend and I love horror flicks and every time I go I say, “Why did I do this to myself again?!” I get so tense and scared for 2 hours. This one was terrifying!! The plot line did jump around–what about the doll? But scary for sure.

  5. I liked it but did not find this one very scary. Sure it was pretty cliche filled but the acting and atmosphere was top notch.

    • I am actually a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror films. I usually end up pacing around my living room when I am watching them.

      I do however love me some X-files, the misses and I have been re-watching that show marathon style on Netflix.

  6. Nice Review, I found the conjuring a bit of a mixed bag. It was racked with the usual clichés and dozens of naff and corny moments but somehow it managed to bring enough genuinely terrifying moments for it to work in some capacity.

  7. Glad you liked it! I enjoyed it quite a bit (how creepy was that Annabelle doll?)
    Although I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I found it a cheap way to end the film.
    Nice review!

  8. jjames36 says:

    Well said. I like it more than you do, I think, but I cannot disagree with any of your points. The Conjuring definitely has the flaws you indicate.

  9. Pingback: “The Conjuring 2” Review | dbmoviesblog

  10. raistlin0903 says:

    Great review, and I agree with all the points you are making. It was a great movie but there were definitely things that could have been handled better, the ending is one of those things.
    Off topic: great looking blog you have going here.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks a lot! It is clear that James Wan can produce quality horror, but it is amazing that he can still revive “traditional” horror successfully. That takes a certain amount of skill.
      Your blog is amazing too. I like it that you review films from the 80s as well as foreign movies. There are some real gems to be found in these categories.

  11. Pingback: “The Founder” Review | dbmoviesblog

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